3D Printers Can Only Make Trinkets — What About Kayaks?

Wow. [Jim Smith] of Grass Roots Engineering has just put the finishing touches on his entirely 3D printed kayak. And it floats.

The individual parts were printed on [Jim’s] massive home-made 3D printer, which is loosely based off a RepRap — except that its maximum build volume is a whopping 403 x 403 x 322.7mm.

The kayak itself is made of 28 printed sections, and to hold it all together, he has installed brass threaded thermoplastic inserts, which then allow the pieces to be bolted together. Silicone caulking is applied before assembly to ensure a watertight seal.

It was originally based off of a Siskiwit Bay kayak by [Bryan Hansel] but [Jim] has heavily modified it to suit 3D printing. It was printed at a layer height of 0.65mm to reduce print time, which still ended up being over 1000 hours! He even optimized the design to improve performance based on his own height and weight.

The hull is 6mm thick, with a custom rib structure to increase strength — you can also see the method of fastening the sections together in the following image:


In total it weighs around 65lbs, with 58lbs of that being ABS plastic — it used 7lbs of screws and brass inserts — wow! Oh and since the whole thing was 3D printed, [Jim] also added some handy features like camera mounts on the bow and stern. Talk about a big project!

Have you seen anything else this big printed on a hobby 3D printer? Our first thought is the Replica DB4 project by [Ivan Sentch] — He’s building an Aston Martin DB4 using a donor car… and a lot of 3D printed parts.


66 thoughts on “3D Printers Can Only Make Trinkets — What About Kayaks?

  1. Google tell me that 65lbs = 29,4835041 kg. Wow. Worlds first 3D-printed AND worlds heaviest Kajak at the same time! Extraordinary expensive too! And with built-in leaks!
    Seriously, I am not sure if this actually qualifies as A Good Idea. Glassfiber and resin do the job much better.

    1. Hmm, your comment gave me an idea, that one could print only some thin scaffolding, then wrap it in foil, then cover with glass fiber and resin. That should be much faster to print and make too.

      1. and that would have been the right idea. even printing this as it is, it is a buck to make a mold. then get some CF cloth and resin and go nuts making a high performance drag racing kayak.

    2. That is just the weight of the plastic. There are quite a few bolts in it to, which probably adds a good couple of KG’s.

      Agree, not the best tool/process/material for the job. But it is still pretty awesome accomplishment. – Think building a house/working car out of lego and other similar feats. It is never going to be better than using more traditional methods, but still pretty interesting that someone did it.

    3. It’s definitely not light weight, but I can see via a quick Google search that some kayaks are around 40 pounds. But that’s everything included. This guy still need seats and what not. I would probably have printed the kayak at about 2mm and reinforced it front and back with epoxy. That way the layers would be protected from splitting too :)

      1. You say that because you now know how much a printed kayak weighs with a 6mm shell. Sometimes when you are doing something that is the first ever in the entire world, you just have to “throw it at the wall and see what sticks”.

    4. Well, it is the first of it’s kind. Do you demand every first try to be the best, so no failed prototypes allowed ever? Can you only do something if it pays off immediately? In that case I’d advise you to stay in bed: getting up is so unrewarding.
      30Kg is not very light, but, did you know that most people weigh more than that, and you will only notice when you need to haul out. On the water it still floats.

      1. “Do you demand every first try to be the best, so no failed prototypes allowed ever?”

        Yeah, in highschool. It was an assignment to make two player tic-tac-toe in java on paper. No debugging allowed, one run only. It was fun and easy if you really know the syntax.

        “Can you only do something if it pays off immediately?”

        Yeah, most people live paycheck to paycheck too.

        “getting up is so unrewarding.”

        Absolutely! In this modern age I can be snarky to people named Jelle on the internet merely to entertain others from the comfort of my bed.

        1. Sure some things are easy and you have a low chance of failure. If you want to do something really interesting and new you are going you are going to fail sometimes. If everything has be be perfect then I think you will have a really hard time making anything really new.

        2. ” Yeah, in highschool. It was an assignment to make two player tic-tac-toe in java on paper. No debugging allowed, one run only. It was fun and easy if you really know the syntax.”

          Something says me you did not finish this ‘highschool’.

          ““Can you only do something if it pays off immediately?”
          Yeah, most people live paycheck to paycheck too.”

          And this strange re-definition of ‘immediate’ to include weekly, biweekly or monthly assures me that you were no member of the debating club either.

          ““getting up is so unrewarding.”
          Absolutely! In this modern age I can be snarky to people named Jelle on the internet
          merely to entertain others from the comfort of my bed.”

          Most people would not include themselves in their definition of ‘others’, but if you wish to play Humpty Dumpty that is fine with me. Watch out with any heights though, it’s not only walls you can fall off, whales are not know to survive falling out of bed.

    5. A while back I read about a guy who made custom surfboards by designing interlocking, tab-n-slot cardboard bits to form scaffolding, then doing resin and whatever (I assume fiberglass) over that. I bet the same concept could apply–printed scaffold, some other material for the structure.

    6. Almost any new technology will initially start out with lower performance than established technologies. A horse drawn car was in many cases superior to a car built in 1900.

      1. Plastic is not new technology. A injection molded plastic kayak would be much cheaper than a regular fiberglass one, but they aren’t common because that makes absolutely no sense.

        1. “Regular fiberglass one”? The only kayaks built solely out of fiberglass these days are sea touring ones.

          Polo, ww racing, high end sea tourers and surf kayaks use carbon kevlar fiberglass composite. Creek, playboats, river tourers, etc are built out of plastic. Indeed, I suspect more of the boats mentioned above are built out of plastic than composite these days – they so much cheaper.

          I’ve owned perfectly functional sea kayaks, surf kayaks, playboats and polo kayaks and the only one where I’ve really felt the extra weight and lesser rigidity was the polo boat – which I replaced with a 2nd hand fiberglass one being too much of a cheapskate to splash out on a new composite one.

          1. In South Africa we use normal kayaks (‘canoes’) here that are entirely made of straight fibreglass for most of our river paddling. And our polo kayaks (polo BATs) are also all fibreglass (although a few are Kevlar composites and we do have plastics but those are usually for first time players who don’t want to invest). Only the guys doing really big water use plastics. Even our slalom boats are fibreglass.

    7. I built a strip-built kayak from the same plans this fellow did – the Siskiwit Bay by Bryan Hansel. 58 lbs for a 17 foot sea kayak is on the heavy side, but it’s not outrageous, and $500 is low for a boat this size. Cedar and marine epoxy aren’t cheap. A full kit for a boat from Pygmy or Chesapeak Light Craft would set you back over a grand, and are still excellent values. I think this is really cool – a guy did it just to see if he could, on a large printer he built himself.

  2. Mr. Ellis: [in woodwork class] What is that, Tomkinson?
    Tomkinson: [standing before an enormous ship he’s assembling] It’s a model icebreaker, sir.
    Mr. Ellis: It’s a bit big for a model, isn’t it?
    Tomkinson: It’s a full-scale model, sir.
    Mr. Ellis: [annoyed] It’s not a model if it’s full-scale, Tomkinson, it’s an icebreaker.
    Tomkinson: Yes, it’s good, isn’t it, sir? It’s got three engines, an enormous…
    Mr. Ellis: No no no, that’s not the point. That is not a model. It’ll be hell if this comes out at speech day exhibition. You’re a very stupid boy building icebreakers like this, Tomkinson.
    Tomkinson: [deflated] Yes, sir.
    Mr. Ellis: Now I won’t say anything to the headmaster if you can get it down to a minimum of four foot.
    Tomkinson: But sir! There’s fifteen hundred tons of ABS in this…
    Mr. Ellis: Do you want to come and see the headmaster with me?
    Tomkinson: No, sir.
    Mr. Ellis: Well, melt it down at once.

    1. Mr. Ellis: Now I won’t say anything to the headmaster if you can get it down to a minimum of four foot.
      Tomkinson: [smug] No problem. It’s already a *minimum* of four feet.
      Mr. Ellis: A week’s dentention for you, you lad. Don’t be a smart arse.
      Tomkinson: [deflated again] Yes, sir.

        1. you must have been so scarred by it! Now you never leave your bed and soothe your ego that it all was because you were to smart… Dream on, you’re still in bed anyway.

  3. I always figured one of the best uses of 3d printing is in the directing gasses and fluids. This is where shape is of the utmost importance, and with 3d printing, shape comes accurately and at no additional cost. Boats, wind turbine blades, centrifugal dust filters. It just makes sense to use a 3d printer in their production. Although a mold that is wrapped in glass / carbon fiber might make time, weight, and strength sense. Again with fiber, its all about the mold. The mold is all about the shape. And with 3d printing shape comes at no additional cost.

    1. I did this back in school. We used a z-corp starch and glue 3D printer to make female molds. Then used a carbon fiber tube and epoxy, and a bicycle inner tube, to inflate the carbon fiber out against the mold. The mold had to be drilled to let out excess epoxy and air. End result was some very nice carbon fiber intake headers for our race engines.

  4. Very interesting. I wonder why the sections weren’t joined together with acetone instead of nuts and bolts. That would probably be lighter and also wouldn’t require sealant between joints.

  5. Makes sense that it weighs so much. Pure plastic kayaks have always been the heavy option and most of those are made from polyethylene which isn’t as dense as ABS. The skin-on-frame idea is interesting, although designing a frame that will flex correctly might be a challenge.

  6. It’s heavier, weaker, and probably more expensive than a commercial kayak. Or a DIY using more conventional construction techniques.

    I don’t see any advantage to doing it this way, other than to show it off and claim “first”. A trinket is a small showy item. So this is really just a very large trinket. ;)

  7. The comments here are once again very negative. The point of this wasn’t to make a better kayak. It was to show that 3D printers are capable of more than tiny little novelties. Why can’t people can’t see the positive in things on this site.

    1. Yes, I’m sure he’s completely overlooked the fact that this is a first attempt. He must think this is absolutely the best way to make a kayak. What a stupid comment. Yes, it would take less effort and money. It would take even less effort and money to buy one ready-made from a store. But then, what’s the point? Even you could do that. But you’re too busy using the least amount of effort possible, snidely commenting on someone else’s efforts, rather than actually building anything yourself. Bravo.

  8. for all of ypu nay sayers out there, the only pther real diy kayaks i have seen are duct tape and more like canoes than kayaks. do either of these http://www.instructables.com/id/Duct-Tape-Kayak/ http://www.instructables.com/id/Duct-Tape-and-PVC-Kayak/ scream high performance? will either of them beat this out on the ocean? are they all made at home without advanced TRADITIONAL manufacturing technology? are they all amazing feats worthy of celebration? also, why do you feel the need toput someone down for this? if th ink that it’s a better idea to buy one, do it, don’t piss on someone who’s doing things their own way. i thinky’all should read allyour comments aloud before you post them. http://hackaday.com/2011/07/27/hackaday-comment-policy-were-cleaning-up/ and read this guys. being an asshat makes people sad.

  9. Whats with all the Debbie Downers on here? This guy is the first in the world to 3D print a working boat. HE PRINTED A BOAT. Who cares if the first 3D printed boat took a long time. HE PRINTED A BOAT. A boat that is custom matched to his body and includes custom mounts for extra accessories. You can’t buy that in a store. This is a huge achievement for 3d printing and at home manufacturing.

    1. Yeah, no. This guy printed a bunch of panels, which then had to be modified to hold bolts, which then had to be bolted together and sealed with caulk.

      Let me know when someone loads up a ginormous spool of filament and 27 days later out pops a fully formed kayak – THAT would be impressive. This is still just a glorified collection of bolted/glued together doodads.

  10. This is pretty impressive. The weight differential is the weight of the bolts, so I’m thinking all the negative nancys out there don’t get the fact that it’s watertight and can be disassembled. Having boated for years, I’d take a 12% hit on weight for a boat that can be compressed to about a third of it’s space when not being used. And not to have to get a boat that’s “Mango” orange is definitely a plus!

    Here’s a link to a traditionally built $1600 Poly version. http://www.rei.com/product/847394/wilderness-systems-tempest-170-kayak-with-skeg-20122013

    Now this is a boat that needs a sonic screwdriver! ; )

    1. I’m thinking all the Optimistic Otto’s are not considering how much work it would be to completely clear off all the SILICONE CAULKING? Being a Realistic Ralph, I’m thinking it’s a pretty much a one way build.

      1. Right, but who said all of the silicone needs to go off or needs to be reapplied? It does not look like a lot of screws that need to be undone, so to just disassemble it into two parts would need only about 10-20 screws. That sounds doable.
        In fact, I might even built a larger printer that can build this in fewer panels.

    2. Except when you want to use it again you have to silicone all the joints (which will take a couple hours) and then wait a day or two for it to dry. Plus the silicone alone will cost at least $20 or $30.

  11. It might be better in the future, for him to build a bigger 3D printer, and use thicker filament, if he can get it. There’s those (were they inevitably Dutch?) chaps who printed off housing panels on a giant printer, I’m sure you can afford to lose a bit of resolution if you’re printing out boats. Might even get to the point, if it works fast enough, where it’d be a viable way of making custom boats.

  12. I love to see usefull pieces made by 3d printed, and not only toys and models.
    26.5kg it’s the same weight as a regular plastic kayak (most sit-on-top weight that).
    I wonder if you can store the pieces one inside another like it was a tupperware and send it in a box. Could be a cool product for selling on the internet and ship it anywhere.

  13. Hmmm… I Otto-magically thought the next iteration might use honkin O-ring technology.
    Then, if the stern was designed to fit into the Bow, close to 50% storage reduction with only one semi-permanent connection.
    Now, If we could only make a device that could make custom sized rubbery O-rings…

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